BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Is there a crack developing in the close and cozy relationship between conservative evangelical Christians and President Donald Trump? Will the Stormy Daniels story a straw-breaking event? It may have been bad reporting or wishful thinking, but the mainstream media has a history of misunderstanding or totally underestimating the political staying power of Religious Right. Now, in the wake of multiple Trump administration scandals, the mainstream press is reporting that evangelical supporters of Trump are preparing for a June meeting that will presumably allow them to air their grievances. However, don't count on Trump being taken to the woodshed. Politically savvy evangelicals understand that their political agenda is inextricably linked to the political fortunes of the president and a Republican-controlled Congress.
In realty, several conservative evangelical leaders, continue to, as The Advocate's Neal Broverman put it "still love the thrice-married man who bragged about grabbing women's genitals." While support for Trump amongst evangelicals may have slipped in the immediate aftermath of the Stormy Daniels' revelations, that drop-off appears to have dissipated.
Nevertheless, as Paul Weber, President and CEO of the Family Policy Alliance put it in a piece titled, "Perfect Values & Imperfect Leaders": "[I]n these times of division, scandal and seamy exploits by our leaders paraded on television in the form of journalism—it can be particularly painful for our families and for our nation. Never has there been a time where this has been more apparent than with the Trump Presidency."
"Christians who voted for Donald Trump knew exactly what we were getting… a morally flawed candidate who made promises that largely aligned with our values," Weber wrote.
Weber added: "This is why we cheer when President Trump promises to end tax payer funding for abortion (we're still waiting Mr. President), nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and advocates for more like him, appoints Cabinet members that affirm Christian values and implements fiscal policy that helps strengthen the family.
"But we groan in frustration with his tweets, his school-yard bullying and reject his deplorable behavior with and toward women. Oh, how we pray—and we do pray—that He would come to faith and that the many faithful men and women around him would successfully guide him toward Christlike behavior."
The issue of evangelical support for Trump resurfaced recently in an NPR story headlined "'Concerned' Evangelicals Plan to Meet With Trump as Sex Scandals Swirl." NPR's Sarah McCammon reported that, "As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting told NPR."
Several evangelical leaders were quick to rebut any notion that the meeting is signs of a rift. "I just honestly don't hear hand-wringing over the [Stormy Daniels] issue," said Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. "They're not surprised; they made that decision a long time ago. This president is not Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee; he doesn't pretend to be a Bible-banging evangelical."
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said it's "highly dubious" [that the Daniels revelations] will affect evangelical support for the president. Reed added "If these folks [evangelicals] don't turn out in record numbers in 2018, it's gonna be a long night for Republicans."
In a quickly penned response, to the NPR story, Family Research Council President wrote that there likely will be a meeting, but it will not be to criticize the president, but rather to praise him and encourage him to keep pushing their agenda forward.
In "Tony Perkins' Washington Update," he wrote that the meeting – scheduled for June at Trump International Hotel in Washington -- will essentially be to praise the president for "advance[ing] the most pro-life policies since Roe v. Wade and is working hard to restore religious freedom that was systematically attacked by the previous administration."
Perkins: "We've invited the president and do hope he will join us to continue the conversation that began with evangelical leaders two years ago in New York City. Our concern is that evangelicals are discouraged, not because of details dredged up from the president's past, but from Congress's poor performance on promises made. The GOP's future depends upon evangelicals remaining enthused and engaged, which depends on the president's agenda going forward – and the Left knows it."
Two years ago, some of the most high profile leaders kissed the moral high-ground goodbye in exchange for supporting Trump. At the time, Christian evangelicals and Christian dominionists expressed several thoughts. Some maintained that Trump was anointed by God to save America's Christian heritage. Others argued that Trump really was coming around on his religiosity. And others famously declared that they were not electing a Pope, but rather representatives for their political interests and how they felt the country should be run.
According to NPR's McCammon, "The meeting is part of an effort to rally and reassure conservative voters, especially white evangelicals who fueled Trump's run to the White House, ahead of this year's midterms. But it also could raise questions about the ethics of holding such events, organized through the White House, at Trump's hotel just a few blocks from the White House."